Friday, January 11, 2013

Greater >

The future is called "perhaps," which is the only possible thing to call the future.  And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you.  
~Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending, 1957
Hi friends....

I know it has been some time since I have sat down to write. It's funny because it's been a long time since I've even just sat down...

The past month has been anything but idle for me. I feel like since arriving home from Ethiopia just over 3 weeks now, my life been a bit of a circus. It literally left what felt at times to be an ancient world and walked right back into the corporate American Christmas... 

So here are the facts:

- Injured my back a week before leaving for Ethiopia... wasn't sure if I'd be able to make the trip. Had 2 injections, one anti inflammatory, one cortisone.... 2 nights before I was supposed to leave...
-Spent 10 days in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, where I experienced some of the greatest joys and deepest sorrows I have ever known. Words simply can't describe all that I perceived, however, I am changed forever by my experiences there..

** I will have more photos posted on my website once I get settled in NC

-Came home to begin a week long practice for 6 Christmas services on three separate days where I lead worship playing guitar...
- All with a bulging (ew, that word is just... bleak) disk in my lower L5- S1 / Sciatic nerve area... as the MRI I received revealed...
-Thus began 2 and half weeks (so far) of PT...
- Just in time for me to move to Charlotte, NC where I will be living for the next 4 months...

Needless to say. Pandemonium. 

Yet, when I look back over the past few years... the most exciting, challenging, gut wrenching, forever altering, eye opening, compelling, whimsical, days have been through out the past four months. I have to take a step back and wonder why so much commotion has been flooding my time as of late. What is radically different now? What is present that was not before? What has changed?

I believe this can be summed up in one statement:

Proverbs 29:18 Without vision the people will perish...

This past weekend, a good friend, Jimmy Page, spoke at our church about this very verse. He said he believes the reason true life transformation can take so long is because people never quite catch the vision.... 

& by vision, He clearly means the vision God has for your life. 

Vision is something that God has placed in each one of us. A divinely unique purpose for each of us to serve, all surrendered to His will. & the truth is, visions often come with great sacrifice. 
I have discovered so many of my Christian brothers and sisters choosing comfort over living radically. Not because they don't want to, but because they have settled in complacency. They have either not caught the great vision the Lord has for their lives, or they have chosen a different one, most often times, their own. 

As we all know, our visions of life are matchless to the one God has for us.

Over the past 4 months, the Lord has cleared the many distractions that once entangled my heart, my time and my focus. He has removed those that were simply in my way, hindering me and holding me back from entering this next great season.

I have finally caught the vision God has placed over my life... and I truly can't quite explain the profound truth it contains...

"When you decide on course of action in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you..." 
-Jesus Calling

As I stated before, radical living for Jesus comes with great sacrifice... I cannot explain to you enough the heart ache I've walked through. I had to say goodbye to the great vision I had for my life so that I could enter into the even greater vision the Lord had for mine. 
Everything I experienced was instrumental & absolutely necessary to bring me to this very moment.

Had I not walked through this season, I never would have learned just how strong of woman I am on my own two feet. I wouldn't have been able to truly own my faith. And I would have not realized the capacity the Lord has placed into my spirit to lead others. 

The real truth is that all things behind me now dwell in the past. & they only have as much power over me as I allow them to.... 
The Lord isn't losing sleep over the moments of defeat behind me... but more so, I think He is eagerly awaiting to see how I will use the time given to me now that I am walking in truth, freedom and vision.

Another real truth is that I am no different from you. There is nothing remarkable about me all. In fact, the Lord found me at a pretty broken place. To quote St. Paul, I am truly the least qualified... 

& yet, through faith in believing God's vision, I have battled the greatest heartache I've yet to know, I've traveled to Far East Africa, I am moving to Charlotte NC, where I know not a single soul, all with a back injury that I may have my entire life...

My best friend always told me that greater {>}  things were awaiting just ahead... that she knew it was coming... & that time, is here...

I will be spending the next few months in Charlotte interning with Elevation Church. I have no idea what I'm about to step into, but I know He's already there waiting for me. 
These months ahead are about me & Him. No one else. Everything is going to sorta stop turning for me. I want to get to the heart of knowing the Lord on my own. I feel that to be the best possible leader I can be, I need to be healed and whole, made complete by my Savior. I am already on the mend, but I know I have much farther to go. I know Charlotte will be this very place for me. I can feel it in my bones. 

It has been said that often times our greatest joys lie straight through our greatest fears. My prayer for us all this new year is that 2013 would really be different. That we as believers would live with courage. That we will exude radical and audacious faith, believing and trusting God for greater things. That we will trade in our comfy-complacency and start living with Kingdom Vision. 

Without Vision, the people will perish. 
My prayer is that you begin to ask God for a vision for your life. If you already know it, I pray you run with it like wild fire. There simply isn't enough time for waiting around.  
Jesus was radical. Jesus became man and died for you and me. He didn't waste time. & He certainly wasn't comfortable...

Jesus set me free on the African plains of Ethiopia. The cords of my heart had been wound so tightly, that as He cut me lose, I felt as though it had burst from my chest. It's almost as if I heard Him say, "See where I have led you to? Do you trust me with where I will lead you to?" 
The future is imminent no doubt. And sometimes the fear of the unknown can be a paralyzing phenomenon. But what greater a force than Kingdom vision, radical pursuit, and living life with purpose and fulfillment for the one who gave everything so that we could be free?

We can't be afraid. 

Jesus is > than fear. And Vision is > than the unknown.

Join Me? 
My calling is great. The stakes are high. & it requires stellar character. My vision defines the parameters that I live by. 
- Sun Stands Still, Steven Furtick 

*All photographs of me taken by Abby Caldwell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

& Ill tell all the world...

It's 730 in the Far East region of Africa. I'm sitting outside the guest home. Sounds of Muslim worship mixed with children's laughter are radiating the streets.

I can see my breath.

Thoughts of how I will be boarding a plane in just a few short hours to head back to the only normalcy I've ever know is a little hard to believe. I feel like I've time traveled to ancient world, some how existing in modern day. I've seen so much that doesn't seem fair.
& I find myself trying to grasp how to possibly do life again when I land in Washington DC, 2012. (It's 2005 here)

Will I so easily step back into my routines and roles. Will I be entangled with things that really hold no true purpose or value.

I tried to envision myself drinking a latte in Starbucks. And the woman who spent all she had to prepare a coffee ceremony for me, a guest in her humble home, that took almost an hour to be ready....

I'm left wondering what kind of person will emerge from this experience. I really have great choice when I arrive. To truly be changed. Or to not be.

I truly believe The Lord will hold me to a greater responsibility to steward the experiences I've had. I have seen. You have not. & you can't be blamed for your ignorance. Although I fully believe it doesn't warrant excuses for not pushing deeper....

What I have found is the deeper we get... The more real life becomes... The greater the tension. & most times, greater the heartache.

It's hard to see how ugly then world can be. To stare the result of sin in the face is absolutely terrifying. & it often leaves me in doubt...

But I truly believe if we can enter into that sacred tension, the hard places... To really look into the eyes of those before us, we will see the face of Jesus there.

He resides in suffering. His speciality is healing. If you are "fine" "ok" or "good" there's not much room for him to really move within your heart.

I'm not saying walk around with a heavy heart and a hanging head. I'm saying search your heart. And start understanding what true compassion looks like. I'm saying stop being so comfortable and start stretching your wings. I'm saying stop living on the table top of your simple manageable life... And start remembering that Jesus didn't die for you to live in total ideal American bliss.

I feel like The Lord has asked me to have some perspective. And that process Of realizing its not about me at all, is still a journey for my restless spirit.

But I know I want to be forever challenged. To stay stagnant and simple is probably my greatest fear...

Jesus set my heart free yesterday. In the middle of the African plains. I blinked my eyes a few times because I couldn't believe I where He had led me to.

I reminisced with a friend last night about the person I used to be. And the person I am on my way to becoming. The things that used I occupy my time... The things I thought were important or held weight....

Jesus changed EVERYTHING In my life.

And he can change yours too.

If you are willing to enter into your greatest fears... He is waiting there, hand outstretched to meet you where you are.
If you would only let Him...

As is said... Ill be on my way back to my reality very soon. A world blessed beyond words, yet plagued with blindness, ignorance & entitlement.

I don't wish to return to conversations about Christmas gifts. Shopping needs. Unnecessary wants.

Ill remember the children who are laying on their backs in beds just hoping someone will adopt them. Ill remember the weathered flesh eaten hands of the lepror who prepared me coffee in her home. Ill remember the hearts of the ministry workers, who have given their lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serving the desperate needs of their countrymen. Ill remember that worship knows no language, but only beloved authenticity. Ill remember those who were blessed they had a job.

But ill remember the wholly dependence on Jesus above all of it.

Ill never forget the faces. And I can't wait to show you all of them...

All I know is I want to be different today then yesterday. And even more changed tomorrow.

Ethiopia will forever have a piece of my heart.

& Jesus is King.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

100 constructs for 0 frameworks

It's currently November, Someday, in the year 2005. At 12:28 am.

I'm writing you from Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia, Africa.

I am currently 7 years in the past, but also hours 8 (from home) in the future. I am lost in translation. Laying on a small wooden sofa in the reception area of the guest
home. My only company are the dead cock roach I've killed & the sleeping receptionist on a small mat in the corner of the room.

My mind is racing. & my heart is heavy from all that I have seen today.

How can I possibly describe the indescribable. How can I make your ignorance comprehend. What can I do or say or shout or scream to make you take one moment away from your life to understand mine.... And more so to possibly care for the lives that mine has intersected.

I have seen the destruction of Disease. The wear and tear on mothers and their eventually orphaned children. I've seen weary eyes. Naked and famished. I've seen Hands and feet eaten away by leprosey. I have passed by a trash dump city, where many people receive their only food supply. I have seen hopeless eyes asking me to meet their very next need.

I have walked amongst the least of these...

My heart broke today. I felt it well up & literally burst in my chest. It came flooding out through an ocean of tears. As I felt helpless under the great weight of need. I can feel the groans of despair in gravel that is their very road.

How do I leave this place and return home to cooperate American Christmas? Coined by excess and extravagance. More more more.
Me me me.
How do I go back to my life and just live knowing this need is still running rampant.

As a photographer, I am struggling with trying to capture what I am seeing without potentially harming the people. How would I feel if I was laying naked in a street, starving....& someone walked up to me, photographed me. & walked away.

I feel that my purpose on earth is to make the least of these known. Known, in order to compel others to action. To make a difference and to be the change. But at the rate of preserving their only dignities, I have left many frames pass by, captured only in my memory...

This juxtaposition is tormenting me. & leaving me frustrated asking God what my true purpose is here.

Trust me. Within this great suffering is an even greater joy. It radiates from the smiling faces of those who have all of the world, yet in our eyes, would be seen as the lowliest. Yes they have no material wealth. Yes they are disease ridden. Yes they are weary and each heavy burdened....

But Jesus is their everything, because He is all they really have. It's easy for them to authentically love me when they first meet me, because of the overwhelming love they feel from Jesus. It's easy for them to talk to me because they are more focused on a relationship with me than my socio economic status or my career. It's easy for them to break into uninhibited worship because they have zero distractions in their way...

I envy the way they walk in freedom.

I am challenged by their endearing smiles that have greeted me each day. I am even more challenged by their faith. In that they shall truly inherit the earth...

To the one that has been given much, much will be required...

I am learning this tonight.

Love, me

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ripping off my Rearview Mirror.

*I don't remember seeing fear in your eyes

The day we said our goodbyes

It's easy to say that there's a reason for this

Much harder to know
 that what we say is true...

It's really hard to realize that our lives aren't meant to be lived for us. 
it's really hard to realize that our lives aren't meant to be lived for us.
It's really hard to realize that our lives, aren't meant, to be lived for us....

really really hard. 

I can't believe we are just a few short days from December... I can't believe Thanksgiving has passed... & Christmas is just around the corner...
Times flying. And I can't slow it down... So I suppose I should move right along with it.
Less than a week from today I'll be in mid flight. Airborne & in route to Ethiopia. > a weeeeeek.

As I left my final meeting Sunday night, the reality of this trip set in and kept me up, mind racing in knowing that this week would be a little chaotic. I spent hours last night reflecting on just how fast this time came... and how the months leading up to it have been a little blurry. I think the reason I've written so much less is because I haven't really been able to organize my thoughts. With each passing day, there was just more to do, and seemingly less time to not do. However, my thoughts from last night have brought me to some things I am sure of. 

1. The past four months have been filled with some of the greatest tensions that my heart has ever known. Saying goodbye to the dreams you had for yourself are hard. (really really hard. repeat.) It doesn't just happen overnight. Stepping from the platform of familiarity into the great abyss of unknown is terrifying. But the timing of all of this doesn't surprise me. As it does never. For once in my life,  nothing is really certain. The only thing that is certain is that I am leaving in a week to enter into an uncharted framework. I am expectant that God will use me there... and even more so my abilities to accomplish change. I can't wait for Ethiopia. And all that it will mean for me...
*Village of Korah, Ethiopia (yes a trash dump city) 

2. And the One sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then He said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true."

I will be returning home on the brink of a new year... a fresh begining... And I really have much more power than I realize to do all that will be asked of me. Prior decisions on how I spent my time, where my energies were exhausted, the person I was becoming, was so determinded on relationships with others. It's really time for that relationship to be Jesus. I strongly feel He has cleared the way for me to have limited to no distractions... He has met so many of my needs, and continues to do so daily. He's positioned my life in such a way that I really have the freedom to be the most productive for the Kingdom NOW. not later... not in another month, not when I have more money, not when I have some more things figured out... Now. right. now.
That is empowering. That hope for a new start compels me to do more than I ever thought I could. I just need to draw strength from each day, and move to the next in expectation.

I've had a blog brewing in me for some time about this very statement.. I think it will come post Ethiopia... but I know that this is the cry of my heart... & that most days I often feel very lonely in it.... 
I stand by this: I do not believe that Jesus Christ left Heaven, took on flesh, was crucified & died for our sins, so that you & I could have an easygoing, smooth, comfortable faith. A simple walk through life. Be as comfy as you can til you die. I just won't accept it. you can. But I can't. 

*Korah, Ethiopia

I am blessed by you. Thank you for walking through the ever changing seasons of my life with me. Days I feel like giving up on writing, you are the encouragement I need to press onward. I am grateful to all parties who contributed to my trip, whether through finance, prayer, or an encouraging word... You have blessed my life... And I will always be here for you. In whatever capacity the Lord wills. 
I look forward to sharing all that God does with & through our team. I am smiling in excitement even now.
 my prayer for us all... forever... 

see you soon <3

*You're not just a body of flesh, bones and blood, You are alive, you're His precious child
                               And your soul will forever live on......

*Need to Breathe